At the Extreme Sailing Series, Muscat rolled out the red carpet for the competing teams at the stunning new venue at Almouj Golf Club today and spurred local crews from Oman Sail’s The Wave, Muscat and Oman Air to some solid performances on the first day of racing.
Hosting the Extreme fleet for the fourth consecutive year, Oman delivered near perfect conditions for the start of the four-day event with brilliant sunshine, blue skies and a light and puffy seven-knot breeze welcoming the 11 crews as they headed on to the water for the first of seven races.
The Wave, Muscat’s skipper Leigh McMillan (right) Oman Air’s Skipper Rob Greenhalgh (middle) - 2014 Extreme Sailing Series Act 2, Day 1 - © Lloyd Images
Both Oman Sail teams achieved podium places in the opening race with Rob Greenhalgh’s crew on Oman Air storming to a second place and The Wave, Muscat, skippered by Leigh McMillan, taking third in a promising curtain-raiser.
There was more success to come when McMillan, the defending Extreme champion who is seeking his third crown in three years, swept to a resounding victory in Race 7, the last race of the day to lift The Wave, Muscat two places on the leaderboard to fourth.
Oman Air closed the first day 11 points adrift in seven.th place, one point ahead of Sir Ben Ainslie’s JP Morgan BAR but with five different winners from seven races today, skipper Greenhalgh knows full well there is every chance of making significant gains on day two.
'We started the day off well but then had a couple of bad races but everyone was up and down as the results showed,' said Greenhalgh, who has two Omani sailors, Hashim Al Rashdi and Musab Al Hadi, as an integral part of his five strong crew.
The Wave, Muscat - Nasser Al Mashari - 2014 Extreme Sailing Series Act 2, Day 1 - © Lloyd Images
'Conditions were light and tricky and the race courses were short so there were plenty of tactical decisions to be made.
'One thing for sure is that the fleet gets better through the day and we have to get better as well. It’s a challenge - there are a lot of good guys out there and any mistakes get penalized heavily.
'But I feel we’ve had a good day, we are improving all the time and we feel we can move things forward.'
Hashim Al Rashdi, one of the only crewmembers to have raced in the waters off the Almouj Golf Club before said it had been a mixed day but having family and friends among the crowd was strong motivation.
'Sailing in home waters is making me very proud because all of my family and friends are here and expecting great things from me,' he said.
'We felt as if we made good progress so it was a good day for us. We had two or three good starts and a few average starts but there are 11 boats on a small start line so this is a challenge. We were mainly happy with the positions we picked. Hopefully we can do better tomorrow.'
McMillan, who won the Muscat Act last year, admitted the day had proved quite challenging but their excellent downwind speeds had pulled them out of trouble.
'The conditions were tricky and the difference in boat speeds were massive,' he said.
'We didn’t have the starts or the strategies we needed for a fantastic day but we had some really good comebacks especially downwind to keep us in the fight and we will continue pushing to the last day.
'We ended up locked in with other boats off the start line and not being able to sail our own race all the time which made things difficult.
'In these conditions, this competition is an open book – the boats are evenly matched and everyone is having their moment. The stadium sailing tomorrow will be just as challenging – the set up on the start will be different and it will be even more crammed and the wind will be more messed up by the boats so it will be interesting!'
Team skippers at the press conference on Day 1 - 2014 Extreme Sailing Series Act 2, Day 1 - © Lloyd Images
Team skippers at press conference on Day 1 - 2014 Extreme Sailing Series Act 2, Day 1 - © Lloyd Images
The Extreme 40 fleet will race in stadium mode over the next three days and fans around the globe can watch the racing live online on the official event website at the following times: Thursday 20-Saturday 22: 1530-1700 local time / 1130-1300 GMT / 1230-1430 CET.